Antarctica is a natural laboratory for studying the small number of plant and animal species that live in communities. Microbial life, invisible to the naked eye, plays a vital role in Antarctic ecosystems. State-of-the-art genetic methods to study the DNA of these microbes may lead to discoveries that could help in the production of new antibiotics and other compounds.

Remote and hostile, Antarctica harbours some of the most amazing creatures on the planet. It is also a powerful natural laboratory for studying biodiversity, evolution and the impacts of climate change. Cut off from the rest of planet, Antarctica’s isolation and its cold climate have allowed some unique species to evolve.

Mostly covered in ice and snow, Antarctica is the driest, coldest and windiest continent on Earth. Little of its land surface can support life, so the communities of plants and animals that survive there consist of only a small number of species living in simple relationships. Because of the simplicity of these communities, Antarctica is an exceptionally useful place for scientists to uncover how ecosystems work.

Some of the creatures in these communities are particularly interesting. Known as nematodes, their ancestors survived on tiny areas of land left uncovered during the last ice ages, more than one million years ago. By studying these nematodes, scientists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are able to increase our understanding of evolution and help reconstruct Antarctica’s glacial history.

Unlike the land, the seas around Antarctica are home to a rich and diverse group of species that have evolved some unique ways of coping with the cold. Some Antarctic fish, for example, are the only vertebrates in the world that do not use red blood cells to carry oxygen around their bodies.

But because they are so well adapted to the cold, some of these species may not be able to cope with life in a warmer world. Climate change is likely to have a major impact on Antarctic species. From their research stations on and around the Antarctic Peninsula – one of the fastest warming parts of the planet – BAS scientists are well placed to study how these species are responding to climate change.

Compared with our understanding of the continent’s plants and animals, we know very little about Antarctica’s microbial life. Invisible to the naked eye, these organisms play a vital role in Antarctic ecosystems and, because they may help us produce new antibiotics and other compounds, are rich but untapped resource. At BAS, scientists are using state-of-the-art genetic methods to study the DNA of these microbes and, hopefully, harness their potential.

Gentoo Penguin Tracking

A fishery for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) operates over the shelf breaks of the South Orkney, South Shetland and South Georgia archipelagos [8]. Krill is an important food source for …


Grey-headed Albatross Juvenile Tracking

The grey-headed albatross is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because of a decline since the 1970s of the largest global breeding population, which is …


Penguin foraging in a warming ocean

The aim of this project is to learn more about the feeding habits of penguins around the Antarctic Peninsula to understand how their behaviour may be changing as the waters …



Larsen-C Benthos

On 12 July 2017, the Larsen-C Ice Shelf calved one of the largest iceberg originating from the Antarctic Peninsula ever recorded. As iceberg A68 moves north, it  leaves behind an …


Higher Predators – Long-Term Science

The British Antarctic Survey carries out Long Term Science that measures changes in Antarctic ecosystems and seeks to understand the underlying drivers and processes. Marine predators are sensitive to changes …



SO-AntEco Biodiversity

In this collaboration with the Natural History Museum (NHM) and the University of Liverpool, we have developed novel methods for using existing data to contribute to marine conservation and fisheries …



Continuous Plankton Recorder

Contemporary research has shown that the Southern Ocean is warming. Summer surface temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Centigrade in the last 80 years and a strong upper-layer …


Krill Hotspots

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are a key component of the food chain throughout much of the Southern Ocean. These small, shrimp-like animals occur in dense swarms, but their distribution is …


White-chinned Petrel Tracking

The white-chinned petrel is the most common bird species recorded as fisheries bycatch in the Southern Ocean [1]. Although currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, limited population trend data …




SO-AntEco

The South Orkney Islands is a small archipelago located in the Southern Ocean, 375 miles north-east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The seafloor around the South Orkney Islands …


The Heated Settlement Panels

How will life and biodiversity on Earth will respond to climate change? This information is particularly urgent for the waters along the Antarctic Peninsula, which are experiencing rapid regional climate …


EMBRC

European Marine Biological Resource Centre


Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Sea-Surface

  In order to assess the impact of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) on the oceans today we are investigating the effect of decreasing upper ocean pH on calcifying zooplankton. Pteropods, …


SGMarBase

South Georgia Marine Biodiversity Database (SGMarBase)


CACHE-ITN

Pushing forward our understanding of calcium production in the marine environment


SONA

The Southern Ocean Network of Acoustics (SONA) represents a group of scientific institutes and industrial partners who have united to measure an under-sampled component of the ecosystem – the mid-trophic …


Long term monitoring of plastics

This long-term study monitors the impact of marine plastics and other debris on breeding seabirds at Bird Island. Researchers have monitored the levels of marine plastics and other material from …


Antarctic Seabed Carbon Capture Change

The ASCCC Project  has been funded by ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition) to investigate, quantify and understand the role of polar and subpolar seabeds in the carbon cycle, particularly in response …






































Marine Protected Areas

29 June, 2018

What is a Marine Protected Area? Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) support conservation. They are defined geographical areas of water that have some level of protection for the species and ecosystems …































































































































































Albatrosses

1 April, 2017

All but seven of the world’s 22 species of albatross are threatened with extinction, mainly because of commercial fishing activity. British Antarctic Survey science and technology underpins international efforts to …




































































































































































































































































































































































































































Penguins

1 March, 2014

Reports suggest that climate change is putting penguins in peril. Scientists at British Antarctic Survey investigating long-term changes in penguin populations report what’s happening to these iconic birds. Are penguin …















































































































































































































































Science meetings on conservation of Southern Ocean

2 July, 2018

Science meetings of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) take place over the next two weeks (starting 2 July 2018) at the Cambridge Headquarters of …




Success in the South Atlantic

26 April, 2018

A team of scientists on board the RRS James Clark Ross (JCR) has conducted marine biodiversity research around the Island of St Helena with a team of UK based and …



Brachiopods resilient to past environmental change

14 March, 2018

A new study concludes that a seafloor dwelling marine invertebrate is more resilient to environmental change than expected. The paper, led by researchers at British Antarctic Survey, is published today …





First expedition to newly exposed Antarctic ecosystem

12 February, 2018

A team of scientists, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), heads to Antarctica this week (14 February) to investigate a mysterious marine ecosystem that’s been hidden beneath an Antarctic ice …


Life in the slow lane

19 January, 2018

A new study from British Antarctic Survey shows how five common Antarctic marine invertebrates (animals without a backbone) use less energy to feed, grow and reproduce than their temperate and …






Study sheds new light on krill larvae survival

14 November, 2017

An international study involving British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists has shed light on how the larvae of Antarctic krill – small shrimp-like crustaceans – use sea ice to ensure their …


BBC Blockbuster Blue Planet II returns

23 October, 2017

Blue Planet II – the nature documentary that explores the deepest and darkest realms of the world’s oceans – is back on the BBC some 16 years after it was …








Zooplankton resilient to long-term warming

29 August, 2017

Temperature plays an important role in the distribution of ocean plankton communities and has the potential to cause major distribution shifts, as recently observed in the Arctic. A new study …





Poor outlook for Antarctic biodiversity

28 March, 2017

An international study involving scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the …


New study reveals what penguins eat

15 February, 2017

The longest and most comprehensive study to date of what penguins eat is published this month. The study, published in the journal Marine Biology, examines the diets of gentoo penguins …


New study on how shellfish create their shells

8 February, 2017

A new study describing how shellfish create their shells in response to their environment is published today (Wednesday 8 February) in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The shells of …


FEATURED PAPER: Ecosystem Services

1 February, 2017

Intensifying pressures from fisheries, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change are driving global declines in marine biodiversity. Despite widespread conservation efforts there is a growing argument that traditional approaches have …


Conservation plans to protect the albatross

11 January, 2017

The UK Overseas Territory of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands is this week launching an ambitious conservation effort to help protect the albatross. South Georgia is a globally important …


Special feature highlights the value of biodiversity

7 December, 2016

Scientists agree that meeting the ever-increasing needs of the Earth’s human population while maintaining biological diversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite bold international commitments, biodiversity …


FEATURED PAPER: Icebergs and blue carbon

17 November, 2016

When divers laid a grid of 225 markers on the seabed it started one of the longest marine disturbance experiments anywhere in the world. Surveyed and replaced annually, they show …


New study puts shells under spotlight

11 November, 2016

A new study on how molluscs build their shells in the sub-zero waters of Antarctica is published today (Friday 11 November) in the journal Scientific Reports. A team of European …


UK welcomes agreement on largest Marine Protected Area

28 October, 2016

HOBART, Australia: The world’s experts on Antarctic marine conservation have this week agreed to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. At the meeting of the Commission …



Study shows mixed fortunes for Signy penguins

27 October, 2016

A forty year study on a remote Antarctic island shows that while populations of two penguin species are declining, a third is increasing. Analysis of census data from Signy Island …




Nature’s ocean fertiliser

20 September, 2016

Scientists have discovered that Antarctic krill – a tiny shrimp-like crustacean – plays a key role in fertilising the Southern Ocean with iron, which stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, the …


Subantarctic seabed creatures and past climate

1 September, 2016

A new marine biodiversity study in one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the world reveals the impact of environmental change on subantarctic seabed animals and answers big questions …


Review of threats to seabirds

1 August, 2016

A review of breeding distributions, population trends, threats and key priorities for conservation actions on land and at sea for the 29 species covered by the Agreement on the Conservation …


Albatrosses use different regions when on migration

25 July, 2016

A new study of the movements of sub-Antarctic albatrosses tracked from two remote islands some 5,000 km apart, shows that although the birds from each breeding site take similar routes around the Southern Ocean, they forage in different areas for the majority of the time. The results are published this month in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.



Shellfish study published this month

27 June, 2016

New technologies and techniques used in a scientific study of the shells of oysters, mussels, clams and scallops reveal clues about how these commercially valuable species may fare in a changing world, and how discarded shells from the aquaculture industry could benefit the environment.



NEWS STORY: Fighting for space on the seabed

26 April, 2016

New research highlights differences between the tropics and the poles Rivalry between species is common the world over as animals fight for territory and resources such as food. But, according …


PRESS RELEASE: Antarctic seabird in decline

21 December, 2015

New research shows decline in population and breeding success of Antarctic seabird A fifty year study of the charismatic seabird, the southern giant petrel, on the Antarctic island of Signy …


NEWS STORY: Changes in seabed communities

16 November, 2015

A new study by an international team of scientists, including from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), has analysed the effects on seabed communities of glacial retreat. Writing in Science Advances this …


NEWS STORY: Assessing seabird communities

7 October, 2015

Antarctic seabird community structure remains unaffected by changes in food availability A new study of sub-Antarctic seabirds shows that their community structure (how they co-exist and share resources) is unaffected …


PRESS RELEASE: Fungal diversity in Antarctic soils

28 September, 2015

Warmer temperatures stimulate diversity of soil fungi Remote and covered by ice for much of the year the Antarctic Peninsula is home to hidden and dynamic communities of microbes that …


NEWS STORY: Grant for penguin project

25 September, 2015

BAS scientists awarded grant to study penguins’ reliance on krill Norwegian and British scientists are to take part in a research project to determine how dependant non-breeding penguins are on …


NEWS STORY: Explaining sea lion decline

4 September, 2015

The southern sea lion population of the Falkland Islands witnessed a dramatic decline during the last century with numbers falling by 95 per cent between the 1930s and 1960s. It …


NEWS STORY: Bird tracking aids seabird research

18 August, 2015

Bird tracking technology reveals future climate may affect seabird feeding behaviour A two year study of shags on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in Scotland reveals that when …


PRESS RELEASE: Scent matters to fur seals

10 August, 2015

Antarctic fur seals have unique ‘scent profile’ to recognise their pups Researchers studying Antarctic fur seals have discovered their scent has a unique ‘profile’ which enables them to recognise their …


NEWS STORY: New study uncovers how petrels co-exist

14 July, 2015

New study uncovers how petrels in sub-Antarctic co-exist during the winter For the first time, scientists understand more clearly how birds living on the remote sub-Antarctic island of Bird Island …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic life is highly diverse

13 July, 2015

Antarctica more diverse and biologically rich than previously thought The team of scientists, led by Monash University, along with colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Waikato in New …


NEWS STORY: New Antarctic conservation assessment

30 June, 2015

Prince Albert II of Monaco supports Antarctic conservation assessment HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco recently closed a historic meeting of biodiversity and Antarctic experts, convened for three days in …


NEWS STORY: Petrels followed on feeding trips

26 May, 2015

Petrels tracked across the Oceans Staff at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are following the journeys of White-chinned Petrel fledglings as they make their first journeys over the South Atlantic Ocean …



NEWS STORY: New starfish identified

29 April, 2015

First new family of starfish discovered in hydrothermal vents A new family of deep-sea starfish has been discovered living in the warm waters around a hydrothermal vent in the East …


NEWS STORY: Antarctic fur seals monitored

1 April, 2015

New study tracks feeding behaviour of Antarctic fur seals in winter During the Antarctic Summer female fur seals feed in the waters around their breeding breaches. In winter, when their …


NEWS STORY: Penguin colonies once limited

2 March, 2015

Survival of the fittest – genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age During the last ice age, when much of the Antarctic coastline was uninhabitable due to …


NEWS STORY: Age does not wither

16 February, 2015

Does age matter? Maybe not if you’re a wandering albatross A new study of the wandering albatrosses breeding on the sub-antarctic island of Bird Island (off South Georgia) reveals that …


PRESS RELEASE: Oceans and biofouling

28 January, 2015

Ocean acidification changes balance of biofouling communities A new study of marine organisms that make up the ‘biofouling community’ — tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships’ hulls and rocks …


NEWS STORY: Satellites spot seabird poo!

11 December, 2014

Seabird poo has unique spectral signature visible from satellite images Scientists have discovered that penguin and seabird poo (guano) from colonies around the Antarctic Peninsula has a unique spectral signature …


NEWS STORY: Patagonian toothfish fishery

16 September, 2014

South Georgia Patagonian toothfish fishery recertified with flying colours Following its five-yearly Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment, the South Georgia Patagonian toothfish longline fishery has, for the third time, been …


PRESS RELEASE: Penguin trends analysed

6 August, 2014

Risks to penguin populations analysed A major study of all penguin species suggests the birds are at continuing risk from habitat degradation. Writing in the journal, Conservation Biology, a group …


PRESS RELEASE: Fur seal genetics and climate change

23 July, 2014

Genetic study shows major impact of climate change on Antarctic fur seals Genetic analysis of Antarctic fur seals, alongside decades of in-depth monitoring,* has provided unique insights into the effect …


NEWS STORY: Emperor Penguins’ adaptation skills

24 June, 2014

New research using satellite images reveals that emperor penguins are more willing to relocate than previously thought A new study led by the University of Minnesota offers new insights on …


NEWS STORY: Ancestral penguins studied

12 June, 2014

Rise and fall of prehistoric penguin populations charted The British Antarctic Survey has been involved in a study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years. This …


BLOG: Bird Island Station Leader

28 May, 2014

We caught up with Bird Island Research Station Leader Adam Bradley who was living and working on the island when the BBC crew came to film Deadly Pole to Pole. …


NEWS STORY: Bird Island on CBBC

27 May, 2014

Deadly Pole to Pole at Bird Island Tune in to CBBC today at 5:25pm to see adventurer Steve Backshall on Bird Island as part of the BBC’s Deadly Pole to …


PRESS RELEASE: Penguins monitored with tags

21 May, 2014

Electronic tags provide 10 years worth of penguin data A team of scientists, led by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, has used tiny electronic tags to study the decline …


NEWS STORY: Understanding how ecosystems function

18 March, 2014

Lessons from a remote Antarctic island on the vulnerability of ecosystems Scientists have carried out new research that could change the way we think about the vulnerability of ecosystems. Published …


PRESS RELEASE: Frozen moss brought back to life

17 March, 2014

Moss brought back to life after 1,500 years frozen in ice Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Reading University have demonstrated that, after over 1,500 years frozen in Antarctic …


PRESS RELEASE: Satellites identify whales

12 February, 2014

Satellites help spot whales Scientists have demonstrated how new satellite technology can be used to count whales, and ultimately estimate their population size. Using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, …


PRESS RELEASE: Antarctic emperor penguins

8 January, 2014

Antarctic emperor penguins may be adapting to warmer temperatures A new study of four Antarctic emperor penguin colonies suggest that unexpected breeding behaviour may be a sign that the birds …


NEWS STORY: Climate change effects on shellfish

9 December, 2013

BAS takes the lead in ambitious science programme to aid fishing industry and monitor effects of climate change on Europe’s shellfish The supply of shellfish we buy at the supermarket …


NEWS STORY: New marine species identified

3 December, 2013

New species recovered from Amundsen Sea More than thirty new, and, as yet unclassified, species of marine life were discovered during a science expedition to the Amundsen Sea off Pine …


NEWS STORY: Fishing limits to be discussed at meeting

23 October, 2013

CCAMLR underway in Hobart The annual gathering of international Antarctic scientists and policy makers is under way at Hobart in Australia. Twenty-five delegations from around the world have arrived in …


NEWS STORY: Understanding food webs

13 September, 2013

Research on the dynamics of food webs The dynamics of food webs, networks of who-eats-whom interactions, are being highlighted in the August report of International Innovation, an open access European …


NEWS STORY: More moss growing in Antarctica

29 August, 2013

Moss growth in Antarctica linked to climate change Increases in temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula during the latter part of the 20th century were accompanied by an acceleration in moss …


PRESS RELEASE: Krill risk from warming seas

21 August, 2013

Warming Antarctic seas likely to impact on krill habitats Antarctic krill are usually less than 6 cm in length but their size belies the major role they play in sustaining …


PRESS RELEASE Age and Antarctic clams

18 April, 2013

Age matters to Antarctic clams A new study of Antarctic clams reveals that age matters when it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change. The research provides new …


NEWS STORY: Age no barrier for albatrosses

12 March, 2013

Saving the best for last – wandering albatrosses” last push for successful parenting Romanticised in poetry, the wandering albatross is famed for its enormous wing-span and long life. The bird …


PRESS RELEASE: Shellfish and changing oceans

5 August, 2012

New study helps predict impact of ocean acidification on shellfish An international study to understand and predict the likely impact of ocean acidification on shellfish and other marine organisms living …


PRESS RELEASE: Breeding habits of albatrosses

30 April, 2012

Antarctic albatross displays shift in breeding habits A new study of the wandering albatross – one of the largest birds on Earth – has shown that some of the birds …


PRESS RELEASE: Critical food supply level

22 December, 2011

New research shows how much food is needed by seabirds An international group of scientists has shown that many seabirds begin to suffer when the food available for them in …


PRESS RELEASE: Terns clock up the miles

12 January, 2010

Arctic terns confirmed to have the longest animal migration in the world New information on bird migration is revealed by an international team of scientists who have confirmed that the …


PRESS RELEASE: Albatrosses feed with whales

7 October, 2009

Albatross camera reveals fascinating feeding interaction with killer whale Scientists from British Antarctic Survey, National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR), Tokyo, and Hokkaido University, Japan, have recorded the first observations …


PRESS RELEASE: Continent’s diversity revealed

1 December, 2008

First comprehensive inventory of life in Antarctica The first comprehensive “inventory” of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands reveals a region that is rich in biodiversity …


PRESS RELEASE: Interactive map highlights diversity

22 October, 2008

New visualisation of South Georgia A new visualisation tool for exploring the subantarctic islands of South Georgia is unveiled today (22 October 2008). The South Georgia Geographic Information System (SGGIS) …


Polar pecking order and biodiversity

7 October, 2002

New research into how biodiversity is generated and maintained in the seas surrounding hostile Polar Regions is reported in this month?s Proceedings of the Royal Society (Biological Sciences). British Antarctic …